I get a lot of questions from clients, friends and family about WordPress. Some of the questions seem trivial for someone that has been using WordPress as a content management system for a long time. The truth is though, like anything, the tasks just become second nature for someone that has done them so often that it’s easy to dismiss an important question.

I’m reminded by these questions, and when looking at common searches related to WordPress, that they are important to new and existing WordPress users in order get the job done. They are just as much important to them as they were to me at one time.

I’ll go through several questions below and provide detailed instructions how to complete each one. I’ll also provide a bit of theory and advice where relevant.

1) How to Access WordPress Admin

WordPress role selector box

The admin section might also be called the “dashboard.” The dashboard though will look different depending on the type of user accessing it. Only administrators of the site could realistically “access the admin.”

By default, when installing WordPress, the admin account will have a username of “admin.” This is considered insecure though since a hacker would only need to guess a password to gain acceess. It’s best to not tell anybody the username to make it more difficult for a hacker to gain access to a WordPress web site dashboard.

At any rate, once you know the login details (username and password) for the admin account, you just have to visit the website’s domain with “/wp-admin/” added to the URL. If you are already logged in (from a previous session) you will see the Dashboard. If not, you will be redirected to the “/wp-login.php” file to gain access. If you aren’t sure of the password you can click the “Lost your password?” text link just below the login box. From there you will be prompted for either the username or email address associated with the account. An email will be sent to provide further instruction to gain access.

2) How to Add AdSense to WordPress

Google AdSense menu

AdSense is a popular way to earn revenue from a web site. It is essentially the opposite of Google AdWords. When marketers pay Google to run ads on Google’s “display network” they are running ads on sites where people have installed AdSense. Google provides a revenue share for those ads to the webmaster.

The webmaster needs a Google account to apply for AdSense. Once approved ads can be created of various sizes for use on the site. Code gets generated that can be copy and pasted on the web site. It’s smart to add ads to “channels” so that you know which ones are effective.

Once the AdSense code is created and copied to the clipboard, all that is needed is for it to be pasted into the web site. How this is done varies considerably.

Some themes will have a “theme options” section that allows ad code to be pasted into pre-defined areas. In most cases these areas will have certain dimensions already setup so be sure that you are pasting 300×250 code into a 300×250 slot for example.

Other times, you can use widgets to place AdSense code. Using a standard text widget will work (go to Appearance >> Widgets). Mostly these will appear in the sidebar, so it’s important to test different sizes to be sure they fit. Using square ads and vertical rectangle ads are often the best options here. If the theme supports footer/header widgets, you can probably get away with the longer horizontal ads.

Just drag the text widget from the left side to the appropriate section on the right. You may have to drop down the arrow on a box on the right to add a widget. If you aren’t sure where a section shows on the site, just add a text widget with dummy text to see. This might be necessary when working with AdSense anyway as the ad just might leave a blank space for the first several minutes so it might not be obvious where it ends up.

Once the text widget is in place, you can paste in the AdSense code into the larger box. The “title” can be omitted or can contain text such as “Sponsors” for example. Click the “Save” button and view how it looks on the web site. You may want to wrap “center” HTML tags around the code for better placement. Or, even better, you may want to use a paragraph tag with a “text-align” style with a value of “center.” See below for an example. If your widgets are styled with a background you may want to modify the AdSense code to use the same background (and even border color) so it keeps a professional look.

Here’s the sample code for center aligning AdSense ads in widgets:


If the theme or a widget isn’t supportive for your goal, a plugin might be the next best option. With plugins you can fill ad slots and even rotate different ads in those slots allowing you to run your own ad management system. There are free and paid plugins for this purpose. You will likely be provided with code that would need to be placed somewhere in the template files, widgets, or in posts or pages, in order for the ads to display. See the plugin manual for full details.

Often AdSense will display ads that are relevant to the content of the web site, i.e. contextual ads. Other times ads will show up that will advertise a recent site that the current visitor had been browsing, i.e. remarketing ads.

3) How to Add a Favicon to WordPress

A favicon is a tiny square image (or icon) that can help with the branding of a web site. It generally displays when someone adds a site to their “favorites” (hence the name fav-icon) or “bookmarks.”

The browser is able to determine the location of the favicon with a link element that exists within the head tags of the HTML. If the link element isn’t present, depending on the web broswer, it may assume that it is called “favicon.ico” and is present in the root of the web site. So for example: domain.com/favicon.ico

There are online favicon generators like favicon.cc that can help you generate the icon of the correct dimensions (16×16) by either creating one from scratch or importing an image. Often simply placing it in the root folder will get it to show up. You may need to close and then re-open your browser and then add the site to your bookmarks to test it.

To modify the favicon image and/or the path (or even file extension in some cases), the theme options or a plugin may provide a simple interface for doing so. Failing that, you can create and upload the image, make note of the path and open the template editor (go to Appearance >> Editor) and place the link element previously mentioned. Look for the header.php file (you might need to open the parent theme if you are working with a child theme to find that file).

In there you can place the following line (look at the code below this paragraph) between the head tags. You will likely see similar lines in place so you will know that you are in the right spot. It’s smart to backup the file using your FTP software (or online File Manager) before modifying so that you can restore it if something goes wrong.

Finally, the link element to place between the head tags of your HTML:

4) How to Add Plugins to WordPress

Plugins enhance the functionality of WordPress. They can turn a regualr blog into a full fledged online store in minutes. Or they can give your blog geotargeting capabilities. There are 1000’s upon 1000’s of plugins that can turn WordPress into an amazing piece of software.

Plugins though, I feel, should be used sparingly. Every plugin is a potential “backdoor” into your WordPress site. If not kept up to date with proper fixes, they could invite hackers into your web site. Many times, a quick function can be added to the custom functions template file that can eliminate the need for a plugin. Other times, a better theme might contain the functionality that you are looking for as well. However, both those options aren’t immune to the same type of issues as a plugin. Just make sure you really need/want it before installing it. Strongly consider the source of the download and the developer as well. WordPress doesn’t necessarily vet all the plugins on the WordPress.org domain. Check with the community to help make your decision.

For the cautious you may want to backup your blog’s database and perhaps installation files before installing a plugin. This practice might be considered overly cautious but I’d say, at a minimum, keep the plugins up-to-date whenever you are alerted of a new release, and always remove (i.e completely delete) unused plugins.

Now, some plugins might have special installation instructions, so it is always best to check with the accompanying “readme.txt” or “readme.html” or similar file to follow along.

Below are a few typical ways for installing plugins to WordPress:

You can either get them from the WordPress repository or from your local computer.

a) Login to the WordPress dashboard.
b) Click Plugins >> Add New.
c) Choose from the choices at the top of the screen: Search, Upload, Featured, Popular, Newest, or Favorites

I personally have only ever used Search or Upload.

All of the options other than “Upload” will ultimately provide you the option to see more details, or “Install Now.” Click the “Install Now” text link next to the plugin that you wish to install. Verify that you intend to do so. Then “Activate” it when prompted. If the plugin has a settings screen you will want to make your configuration settings (perhaps with the help of the manual or readme file) at this point.

For “Upload” you will browse for the .zip file on your computer to upload. It will be decompressed and placed in the proper location within the WordPress files. You then have the option to Activate and perhaps configure the plugin.

In some cases you can may just want to unzip the file on your computer, and upload the folder to the “/wp-content/plugins/” folder of your WordPress install, either via FTP or the online File Manager in the Control Panel of your hosting account.

Then you would go to Plugins >> Installed Plugins and click the “Activate” text link below the plugin you uploaded. If there is a settings page for the plugin, a “Settings” text link may appear below the plugin name, and/or a new menu item (on the left side) may be created. Have a peek in the “Tools” or “Settings” menus if you can’t see it right away. But it won’t always be present. Some plugins don’t have any config settings (or options) at all.